ArtBeat’s Kathryn Davis spoke with Mary Shaffer about the exhibition Visions 1970 – 2007, on display at the Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM, March 1 to March 31, 2007.
Kathryn M. Davis, art historian, Art of the Americas, MA, University of New Mexico, specializes in modern and contemporary art theory in American art. She has taught art history at The College of Santa Fe, the University of Tennessee, and Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Art. Ms. Davis has over a decade of experience in the field of modern and contemporary art theory, and is currently writing art criticism for local and national publications.
Click here to listen to Kathy Davis’ 7:18 minute interview with Mary Shaffer. (6.7 MB mp3)
James Yood Director, Masters Program in New Arts Journalism. Adjunct Professor, Art History, Theory & Criticism. Northwestern University. Contributing critic for Artforum, Glass and American Craft
Relatively few new forms of art were invented in the Twentieth Century. One of great significance, though, has been the century-long interest in found objects and their amendation and re-presentation. From Marcel Duchamp to the Surrealists, from Joseph Cornell to Robert Rauschenberg, from Meret Oppenheim to Donald Lipski, and from many many more there has been something particularly alluring about the discovery of something in the ‘real’ world, some object with its own dormant presence and mute history that can be somehow rehabilitated, resuscitated, and returned to the realm of the interesting by the imposition of an artist’s hand and imagination. Mary Shaffer is a lot of things, and, like some of the artists mentioned above, her interests extend in other directions as well. But the exercises in looking that comprise her recent sculpture is surely centered in her sensitive scavenging, in her ability to take what is seemingly beneath notice and release from it new realms of suggestion and meaning. Continue reading →
April Kingsley, Glass Quarterly, April 1999 Director, Kreesge Art Museum and widely published art critic and historian. Former art critic for Soho News, the Village Voice and Newsweek.
People expect “the right tool for the job” to solve any problems, ease any chore and last forever. The measure of a tool’s quality is its ability to keep on functioning even though it is being pushed way beyond its limits.(1) What’s more, because we believe form follows function, we see our tools as endowed with innate beauty. We collect them and put them on display, or we replicate them in fine art materials such as bronze, silver and gold, and then display them that way. Countless modern artists, from Arman to Stankiewicz.(2) have incorporated tools in their work, but few have done so as consistently as Mary Shaffer. Her enormous Tool-Wall in the recent exhibition, “Glass Today by American Studio Artists” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was the culmination of a career-long, pioneering use of tool in combination with glass. Continue reading →
Marcia Miro Art critic living in Detroit, a contributing editor for Art News and Glass Magazine, among other publications.
Over a decade ago it was already possible to identify three characteristics that made Mary Shaffer’s work innovative: her experimentation with process, creation of new forms, and marriage of process and form with meaning.*
Over the last 12 years Shaffer hasn’t shifted from this innovator’s stance, nor slowed down her production. She continues to develop earlier ideas. Her concepts remain overriding. Her material-plate glass-still leads her, allowing her to make unexpected forms out of chance and controlled occurrence of process.
Yet one must add to the initial ideas of meaning the Shaffer has anchored her glass sculptures contextually, always finding or making a connection between object and place, object and culture, object and science, as well as time. To every found or finished material she appropriates, she adds her context, shifting meaning so what was becomes something different, more highly evolved and revealing. Every sculpture she makes from scratch carries referents, relating to a variety of circumstances. Shaffer has a dogged way of never letting go of these contexts, sometimes repeating an idea over and over in different configurations and scales until she has explored it in every situation she can imagine. In fact, a strength of the work is the freshness her recontextualizing brings. Continue reading →